This week, it was revealed that Blennerville National School, near Tralee in Co Kerry, agreed with parents in the school, that it was time to put a ban on digital device access for students. There had been a number of incidents revolving around the access and sharing of inappropriate content and Cyberbullying. The ban on devices at home, is an 11-week pilot programme. What we would describe as a Digital Detox, only for the children in sixth class. This decision is similar to one we have been promoting in National Schools for some time now that children should never be given a ‘Smartphone’. We had been anxiously waiting to see a community who would come together and formulate a plan such as this in Ireland. A first step on this path has been publicly taken by a school and parents. We would hope that all parents would look with great interest upon it, and follow-up and try this themselves.
There is some really harmful and very negative disturbing and upsetting content on the internet. Due to the open nature of the internet, it does give free access to anyone who wishes to post whatever content that they like online. An issue that causes a lot of genuine fear among the parents we encounter, is their children being exposed to Online Radicalization material.
This content can be horrific and severely damaging to a child if they are exposed to it. A child’s natural curiosity may lead them to searching for this content. Google has reported a huge increase in the number of searches performed by the search engines for this type of content. Children may be exposed to individuals who seek to impart their beliefs and views or perhaps even attempt to convince the child to convert or join them.
By its very nature, the internet is a 24 hour 7 days a week opportunity to radical individuals to seek to engage with teenagers who are attempting to find their own place in the world. Social media affords the opportunity for extremists to publicise their beliefs and opinions while seeking out other like-minded individuals and those who may be susceptible to their propaganda.
Some Advice for Parents
- This is a new danger that previously did not exist to the extent that it currently does online. Parents need to be aware of it and what to look out for
- You may notice a change in your child’s behaviour or interests
- They may display interests in areas that they did not have before
- Begin to distrust what they see or read and challenge it
- Become very secretive about who they are engaging with online
- Switch to a different screen when you enter the room
- Parents need to monitor the child’s online activity
- Always treat the child with respect and understanding
- A child may not engage again with honesty, if a parent’s first response is to argue or attack the child
- Go through Friend and Followers lists. See who is in contact with the child. Remind the child if they do have Friends, they have only met online, never meet that individual in person
- Discuss what kind of content your child likes to watch. As a parent, unless you ask your not going to know.